Letter from the President
The Lincoln Statue
By Charles F. Bryan, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer
"The mission of the Virginia Historical Society is to collect, preserve, and interpret the commonwealth's past
for the education and enjoyment of present and future generations."
For nearly 175 years the Virginia Historical Society (VHS) has promoted the study of the commonwealth's past. In its
museum exhibitions, publications, educational programs, and in its encouragement of scholarship, the VHS seeks to promote
the examination and interpretation of all aspects of Virginia's long history.
The arrival of Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad, in Richmond on April 4, 1865, is one of American history's most
compelling moments. As much of the business district smoldered around him, the president made his way through the city
a day after its capture by Union forces. The war-weary Lincoln toured the former Confederate capital to see firsthand the
extent of the destruction. He was greeted with silent anger from many white civilians and with euphoria by former slaves
who had first tasted freedom less than twenty-four hours before. Revealing his hopes to bind up the nation's wounds,
Lincoln advised the Union commander of the city to treat all Richmonders with compassion.
Recently, the Richmond-based U.S. Historical Society announced plans to commemorate the momentous visit of
Abraham Lincoln. The organization reached an agreement with the National Park Service to provide a statue of Lincoln
and his son for installation at the Richmond National Battlefield Park Visitor Center at the former Tredegar Iron Works
in Richmond. The unveiling and dedication of the statue will take place on April 5, 2003. As part of the activities to mark
that day, the USHS requested that the Virginia Historical Society organize and host a half-day conference focusing on
Abraham Lincoln and his 1865 sojourn in Richmond. The VHS agreed, seeing a gathering of prominent scholars of
Lincoln and the Civil War as a valuable educational opportunity, and one very much in keeping with its mission. The
USHS agreed to underwrite the costs of the conference. For its part, the VHS agreed to set the conference program
and invite the speakers. It also agreed to offer a limited number of its members the chance to purchase miniature
replicas of the statue, tendered for sale by the USHS. This is similar to a promotion several years ago in which the
VHS, in cooperation with another outside agency, made available to its members reproductions of a photograph
from its collections of Robert E. Lee mounted on his horse, Traveller. The small portion of the proceeds from sales
of the Lincoln miniatures to VHS members will be used to conserve items in its important Civil War collections.
Among these collections are tens of thousands of books, manuscripts, documents, and maps; the largest collection
of Confederate-made arms and equipment in existence; the famous murals, The Four Seasons of the Confederacy;
the headquarters papers of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia; and the recently acquired watercolor
drawings, maps, and diary/memoir of Union Private Robert K. Sneden, the subject of the best-selling book,
Eye of the Storm.
The Civil War is the great scar on the American soul. And it is one that time has not fully healed. The study of this
watershed event in the history of Virginia and the nation is something the VHS takes seriously. And there are few more
appropriate ways to continue the search for understanding than in thoughtful consideration of the man who in the midst
of the war's terrible carnage declared his conviction that the United States could only be made whole again by
recognizing the common humanity of all Americans, a belief that resounded in his memorable words: "With malice
toward none, with charity for all."
Posted February 2003
• Letter archive
• Charles F. Bryan, Jr. biography